When it comes to products, consumers don’t crave complexity.

When I ask my toddler what he wants for lunch, the answer isn’t complicated. Two pieces of white bread and a Kraft single and his grilled cheese lunch dreams are a reality. 

Why is it that this easy sandwich equation makes so much sense? Simply put: my toddler doesn’t crave complexity. And when it comes to craving products, consumers don’t either. 

According to branding agency Siegel+Gale, “simple is smart.” In their 2019 Simplicity Index, Siegel+Gale reviewed more than 800 global brands —  evaluating and ranking them on how simple or complex their products are perceived to be by 15,000 consumers.

The Simplicity Index touts that simple isn’t just a branding strategy. Simplicity pays. Of the consumers surveyed, 55% said they’d be willing to pay more for a simpler brand experience. And 64% of consumers said they’d be more likely to recommend a brand if it provided a simpler experience and communication.

So what were the simplest brands in the United States? Lyft came in at #1. Spotify, Amazon, Costco, and Subway round out the top five. Globally, the top three brands were Netflix, ALDI, and Google. 

What do these brands have in common? They excel at four key strategies:

  • empowering consumers to take control of their experience;
  •  reimagining complicated buying experiences to be practical and enjoyable;
  • understanding pain points and removing the pain (or at least, making them less painful); and 
  •  saving time.

Consider Netflix. As one consumer pointed out, “Netflix has a few simple plans for every kind of user with more content every year.” Netflix gives users control of a new experience and saves time by recommending new content based on previously viewed content. 

Can you get a simpler shopping experience than ALDI? Each ALDI store is laid out in a similar way, so you know where most products will be located before you even get inside. There are no frills, no fuss, and no excess in the ALDI experience.

Simplicity doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a calculated approach that requires companies to know who they are, and who they are not. Community banks often try to be everything to everyone. And consumers are learning that they can find better (simpler) banking experiences elsewhere. No longer are our only competitors the bank down the street or the national “big banks.” Rocket Mortgage, Chime, PayPal — these are our new competitors who promise a simpler experience.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know your bank’s brand promise? Are you consistently delivering on that promise? 
  •  Do your customers identify with that promise? (If you asked them what your brand promise is, would it match what YOU think it is?)
  • Is it easy to bank with you? Are your accounts easy to navigate and financial tools easy to use?
  • Are you regularly considering pain points for customers and how to remove them?

Choosing simple takes work. But by removing complexity, we can give our customers the clarity they need to make decisions, and over time, increase customer loyalty by delivering a simpler customer experience.

Bruins is the new media marketing officer at Horicon Bank and a member of the 2021-2022 WBA Marketing Committee.

This column is published bi-monthly in Wisconsin Banker and is written by members of the WBA Marketing Committee.